Gods and Pawns, #1
by Amanda Washington
Date of Publication: September 27th 2016
Cover Artist: Lindsay Cimina
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Thanks to the deities in her family tree, Romi has been enslaved to a life of larceny since birth. Well, except for that one night, four years ago, when the goddess of love and debauchery sprang her from her prison, slipped her some sort of magical roofie, and introduced her to an irresistible blacksmith for a little tryst resulting in a child. So when two powerful gods show up and offer her a way out of her thieving lifestyle for good, she jumps at the opportunity. All she has to do is blow on a magical sword and imbue it with luck.
Then she can finally find that guy she’s been dreaming about and introduce him to their son. If only she knew the blacksmith’s name…
But when the same gods use the sword to rip Zeus’s essence from his body, Romi’s son is kidnapped and held for ransom. Now Romi, her mysterious fling, and her teenage griffin babysitter have to steal back Zeus’s essence from a cast of powerful gods, or they’ll lose the child forever.
MY DAY STARTED upside down. No joke, I was harnessed, suspended midair, with my feet up and head down, looking over a room full of priceless artifacts when the antique grandfather clock beside the door struck midnight. Dings and dongs thundered, reminding me I was running out of time. As much as I’d like to pretend my days didn’t normally begin in an upside-down race against the clock, I’m not a liar, just a thief. But hey, a girl’s gotta make a living somehow, and this was what I was created to do—there’s a contract and everything—but that’s a story for a time when my life isn’t literally hanging from the ceiling.
As I released another inch of rope and lowered myself further, the black cocktail dress I’d hastily tucked into the knife sheaths around my thighs tumbled free, covering my upper body in chiffon and revealing my panties to the vacant room. I sighed. This was exactly why I hated dresses. But since I couldn’t magically make my normal work pants and T-shirt appear, I ignored my wardrobe malfunction and focused on my objective.
My target rested two feet, five inches below my head, locked away in an engraved metal display box chained to a pedestal, which was bolted to the wooden floor and surrounded by trip wires. Red lasers sliced the air between me and the box, rotating randomly. Randomly…that’s what the alarm company’s brochure says.
I smirked. Human security…so quaint.
Everything has a pattern if you’re patient enough to find it, and I was so patient, my new harness dug craters into my shoulders while I memorized the cycle. Random, my ass. As my opening approached, I bent at the waist and let out a foot more rope. The lasers shifted. I spit a small key out of my mouth and sprang back down, sliding it into the lock. I technically didn’t need the key, but picking the lock could potentially take longer than I had between laser cycles.
Besides, the owner of this building was a sleazeball who’d been too busy “accidentally” bumping into his party guests to notice my hand sliding into his pocket. A little piece of me felt like I was doing a solid for women everywhere by ripping the jerk off.
Getting back to the task at hand, I turned the key and popped open the box. Magic flooded the room like a pulsating glow of sunlight and power. Music sprang forth—some sort of ancient battle song—forcing a vision into my mind. I suddenly found myself in a bed chamber, watching an enormous brute swing a singing sword back and forth as he advanced on the figure asleep in the bed. Shaking myself free of the vision, I ignored the deafening tune and fought to stay focused on my orders. Get in, get the weapon, get out.
The bedchamber dissipated and I was once again in some rich guy’s trophy room, hanging upside down and staring at a metal box. Within the box, a magical sword almost as long as my legs and hooked at the end like a sickle, kept right on singing, declaring its greatness to the world.
The lasers were coming back around. I should have grabbed the sword, but the familiarity of it gave me pause. I pulled back from the lasers and struggled to process what I was seeing. I’d stolen some pretty high-value goods before, but this sword…I knew this sword. I’d seen pictures of it in books and read the lore about it. I was almost certain I knew what I was looking at, but I couldn’t accept it.
It seemed to glow brighter in response.
It can’t be.
Nobody seems to know where the Harpē came from, but its lore began when Gaia, the goddess of earth, and Uranus, god of the sky, birthed a handful of hideous children, known as the cyclops and giants. Uranus sent the uglies to live in a hell-like prison for deities, pissing off Momma Gaia so much she gave the weapon to their son, Cronus, and asked him to whack off his father’s junk.
And I couldn’t think of a single reason why a weapon powerful enough to take down the god of the sky would be locked away in the trophy room of a human.
Was he human?
I’d done my homework. Public records had the owner of this place listed as Aaron Blake, some corporate CEO spawned from old money and raised to power on the backs of blue-collar workers. The guy was textbook for a hit. I had no reason to believe he was anything more than some greedy player.
If Aaron Blake wasn’t human, what was he? A god or a demigod in disguise? Everyone called the disguises glamours. They were more like a trick of the eye…easy to create. I’d used the same type of magic to disguise the daggers strapped to my thighs, assuring nobody would see so much as the outline of them through my dress. Yet I hadn’t even looked for a glamour surrounding Mr. Blake.
I wasn’t prepared to go up against a god, but the more I stared at the sword, the more certain I was of its identity, which meant touching it would bring someone’s ire down upon me.
Damn. What does Shade want with the Harpē?
Shade was terrifying enough without a magical sword at his beck and call. He already wielded me like a weapon, and the idea of arming him with the Harpē made my stomach churn.
No. I won’t take it! I won’t give him this.
Determined to follow through with my decision, I pressed the button on my harness and let the rope retract. Pain blossomed inside my chest, and the further I got from the sword—and the task Shade had ordered me to complete—the more I hurt. My insides seemed to fold inward, squeezing the air from my lungs. I knew from experience it wouldn’t let up. The pain would drive me crazy until I gave in and did my sire’s bidding.
Stars danced before my eyes, I smelled copper, and felt blood welling up in my nasal cavity, especially unpleasant due to my upside-down position. Swearing, I pressed the button again, halting my retreat. I’d only managed to get about five feet away. I dangled midair, cursing both my sire and the mother who’d abandoned me with him. Once again accepting the fact I had no choice, I lowered myself back down to hover above the sword and wait out the next cycle of lasers.
Giving in to Shade’s commands despite my personal convictions always left a sour taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t disobey. Not with my kid counting on me to make it home.
Amanda Washington is a lover of wacky animals, enthralling books, dark chocolate, and red wine. She's always up for a good adventure (real or fictional), and when she's not building imaginary worlds, she's dipping her toes into reality in southwest Washington with her husband and their boys.
INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA WASHINGTON
How would you describe you style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
Fast-paced, first-person, story-driven fiction with romance, mystery, and a bit of comedy.
What mindset or routine do you feel the need to set when preparing to write (in general whether you are working on a project or just free writing)?
For mindset, it depends on what I’m writing. Strong personal emotions (sadness, joy, struggles) can strongly enhance a scene. I try to channel whatever emotions I’m feeling into the scene I’m working on. As for routine, I just need coffee, quiet or the noise of music, and a computer.
Do you take your character prep to heart? Do you nurture the growth of each character all the way through to the page? Do you people watch to help with development? Or do you build upon your character during story creation?
I’ve tried to fully develop characters and plot stories before I started, only to find that knowing everything from the beginning bored me to tears and made me not want to write the book. In fact, I scrapped that project. I like to let my characters and story develop naturally, as I would a friendship. I give myself enough to make sure I want to get to know the character at the beginning, and then I let them share their secrets with me along the way.
Have you found yourself bonding with any particular character? If so which one(s)? I love all three of the main characters, Romi, her baby-daddy, and her teenage griffin sidekick. I also feel protective of her son. As a reader and writer I want to find out what happens to them. They all have so much potential!
Do you have a character that you have been working on that you can't wait to put to paper? Several! There is so much rich, incredibly Greek mythology lore out there and Romi is going to have to tangle with some pretty powerful gods that I can’t wait to put my own spin on. Also, Talon, the son of Dolos (god of trickery) has barely made his appearance. I have a feeling he’ll be showing up a lot more to throw a monkey wrench in Romi’s plans.
Have you ever felt that there was something inside of you that you couldn't control? If so what? If no what spurs you to reach for the unexperienced? I feel like my brain doesn’t turn off, which is the reason for my insomnia. I’m always thinking about either stories I’m writing or reading, exploring different directions they could go. Sometimes it’s like my brain is locked in one of those old school Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I’m trying to cycle through all the possibilities to see which would be the most fun and the most fitting for my characters or the characters of whatever book I’m reading.
Thank you so much for the fun interview questions and for helping me get the word out about Lucky Blow!